“Whether or not it draws on new scientific research, technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not science”.– Paul Goodman
Grandma Ines was supportive of my fascination with balls.
Every time we walked down the street together, I’d point at random round objects and say “Ko!”
Whether it was for sale or not, she tried to get it for me, and by the time she died when I was four, I had a significant collection of balls; plastic and rubber, hollow and stuffed, hard and soft, big and small.
Balls were cool because they provided unconditional joy. Most of them behaved in a similar way; they would roll, some bounced and most importantly, they were really hard to break, so they provided longevity. A ball was likely to stay a ball, unlike other toys I was provided with, which had the capacity to transform into a pile of unrecognisable parts on the floor.
Sometimes I wanted a game just because I saw it contained balls. When I got the game, I took the balls out and discarded the rest of it, much to the disappointment of whomever gave it to me. I was accused many times of using it incorrectly.
I developed my motor skills by making mud balls with my mum on the beach and used those skills to try and disassemble my toys to “see what’s inside”.
From toy fire trucks to board games, from electronic goods to musical instruments, I interfered with the structure to try and find the true meaning of it by taking it apart, convincing myself each time that this time I will put it back together after I made my discovery. I mostly failed and saw the pile of objects go to the bin.
I didn’t get over the balls when other toys presented to me, balls seem so indestructible. Every time I succeeded to see what’s inside a ball, it was either empty or full of matter I couldn’t break further. It made me believe that everything is made out of balls, so every time I got a new toy or game, I broke it to try and find the balls.
LEGO was a good transition from balls. It introduced a different shape, and there was more creating and making involved as the bricks was impossible to break, although I chewed on them regularly just to discover that when the round bits at the top of the bricks are all chewed, the piece becomes a bit useless.
I never bothered to keep my LEGO creations and a big part of the fun was to build a large and intricate structure only to destroy it at a whim. When my sister was old enough to build with LEGO, I would destroy hers too and she would start to scream and cry. We saw things differently.
The love for building with LEGO never faded, but I think that my interest in balls peaked at the age of six when I got my world encyclopaedia. It contained a special book about outer space with pictures of the planets and the stars and descriptions of man’s quest to touch and walk on them. This was it for me. I found my destiny.
Imagining the round planets was the greatest discovery of my childhood and from then on, I wanted to become an astronaut.
Books held a different fascination; I intuitively knew that they do not contain any physical balls so there was no point in trying to break them. Moreover, I didn’t want to risk destroying a potentially good story about a round object or any associated imagery.
I had a book called “the missing piece” which I found particularly interesting as it was about an incomplete circle going on a search for the piece that completed it. Given my strongly held view that balls are the indestructible foundation of the world, this book captured my imagination as it was the first time, I encountered the wonders of absurdist literature.
Growing up in a crime infested suburb of Tel Aviv was not a promising upbringing for an aspiring astronaut. My chances were slim and my dad, as a past basketball player, tried to encourage me to focus on smaller, more elastic balls.
I started to follow his advice, but a while after he left, my young basketball career was deflated, although I kept playing for fun and loved waking up in the middle of the night to watch Michael Jordan and the Bulls defy gravity and make a salad of all the other NBA teams.
I retired from basketball around about the time Jordan did. Still dreaming about reaching outer space but turning to marijuana and music rather than space training to get me high. At the same time, the prospect of growing up and becoming a soldier started to be more real and worrisome.
At the age of fourteen my weird aunty Nina gave me a toy gun for my birthday. It was made of plastic and had a rattling sound when the trigger was pressed.
I was more into guitars, but I kept it because I didn’t want to offend her. She was a career police officer and probably meant well. It wasn’t long until I took it apart to “see what’s inside”.
No doubt that aunty Nina wanted to prepare me for the real gun the state of Israel wanted to give me when I turned eighteen.
At eighteen, the little common sense I had made me decline the lethal present of an M16, but I reluctantly had to carry it with me for a month of initial training. This included taking it apart and cleaning it.
Luckily, and after throwing up a fuss, the rest of my three years of mandatory military service in the air force had nothing to do with weapons. Air force service was bit closer to the heights of outer space on paper, but it was as low as it can get if I think about the mental condition I was in while doing HR work in sweaty beige uniform for a hundred dollars per month, every day, for three years.
As balls turned to bricks which turned to bullets and guitars, reality was in stark difference to the round world I discovered and loved as a child.
A guitar is a technology that can create a strong bond between people through music. It can also make your neighbour call the police, while at the same time be used to assault someone.
Same goes for a gun. Even though the intention of the invention was not necessarily evil, the consequences of how we ended up using it are disastrous.
Today when someone tells me they are thankful for technology and that it brings us closer together, I wonder if twenty years ago we would have written more letters to each other and have less fear of missing out. I don’t think that technology makes things easier. In a sense it makes things more immediate and comfortable, but it also changes our expectations from ourselves and from other people. I think that technology is neither good or bad, it’s how we choose to use it and what we expect from it that changes us.